A new study by Canadian scientists once again debunks the notion polar bears are currently being harmed by global warming. Researchers with Canada’s Lakehead University found “no evidence” polar bears are currently threatened by warming.
“We see reason for concern, but find no reliable evidence to support the contention that polar bears are currently experiencing a climate crisis,” Canadian scientists wrote in their study, published in the journal Ecology and Evolution.
Scientists looked at 13 polar bear subpopulations and found “much of the scientific evidence indicating that some polar bear subpopulations are declining due to climate change-mediated sea ice reductions is likely flawed by poor mark–recapture sampling.” This means researchers aren’t able to put together accurate “demographic parameters.”
Polar bears became the poster child for environmentalists who argued melting Arctic sea ice could kill thousands of bears that would have nowhere to rest while hunting in the summer months. Former Vice President Al Gore even featured polar bears swimming for their lives in his 2006 film on global warming.
Fears about global warming’s impact on polar bears even spurred the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to list the bear as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act in 2008 — the first species to be listed over possibly being harmed in the future from global warming.
FWS argued in 2008 that “the best available science” showed “that loss of sea ice threatens and will likely continue to threaten polar bear habitat.”
“Any significant changes in the abundance, distribution, or existence of sea ice will have effects on the number and behavior of these animals and their prey,” according to FWS. “This loss of habitat puts polar bears at risk of becoming endangered in the foreseeable future, the standard established by the ESA for designating a threatened species.”
Scientists, however, have increasingly been questioning alarmists, like Gore, and the U.S. government for listing the bears under the ESA. For starters, there are way more polar bears alive today than 40 years ago.
In fact, polar bears have likely survived past ice-free periods in the Arctic. Scientists recently found there’s no evidence of marine life extinctions in the Arctic in the past 1.5 million years, despite the Arctic going through periods of prolonged periods with no summer ice cover.
What’s more interesting is that periods in the Arctic when sea ice was exceptionally thick, polar bears and other Arctic animals had the hardest time surviving.
“We suggest that the qualitative projections for dramatic reductions in population numbers and range are overly pessimistic given the response of polar bears, climate, and sea ice to the present,” scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the University of Alaska Fairbanks wrote in a study published in January.
Now, Canadian researchers are using “Inuit and Inuvialuit traditional ecological knowledge” and other methods to call into question alarmist polar bear estimates.
“We suggest that the qualitative projections for dramatic reductions in population numbers and range are overly pessimistic given the response of polar bears, climate, and sea ice to the present,” Canadian scientists wrote.
Shrinking Arctic sea ice may not be the real threat to polar bears. Veteran zoologist Susan Crockford argues that thick spring ice is a bigger problem for polar bears than sparse summer ice.
“Thick spring ice near shore drives seals to give birth elsewhere because they cannot maintain their breathing holes in the ice,” Crockford wrote on her blog. “This leaves mothers emerging from onshore dens with newborn cubs with nothing to eat at a time when they desperately need food: cubs die quickly, mothers more slowly.”